Region

Central Asia

Stories under this heading cover Central Asia – a region of Asia, stretching from the Caspian Sea in the west to Mongolia in the east, from Afghanistan in the south to Russia in the north.

Editor's choice
Commentary
Jittery Kremlin hits out at Central Asia NGOs

Jittery Kremlin hits out at Central Asia NGOs

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, speaking on the occasion of the Special Operations Forces Day at a meeting of the Board of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation in Moscow on 27 February, unleashed an attack against Central Asian NGOs, accusing them of "continuously increasing hostile activities against Russia", especially in the "creation of new initiatives and structures aimed at discrediting and countering the Russian presence in countries traditionally our friends". Shoigu said the situation in this region is "very delicate", recalling the contemporary threat of the Afghan Taliban and ISIS terrorists, to which he equates the works of non-governmental organizations. In his speech, Shoigu said "over 100 large pro-Western NGOs operate in these countries, which have more than 16 thousand representations and branches, which aim to weaken the technical-military, economic and cultural collaboration with the Russian Federation, against the background of the special military operation [Ukraine War], and we have to do something."   Central Asia is hardly the first place that comes to mind when it comes to civil society activism, but the process of opening up to the world, and the reforms being put in place across the region, has widened the space for NGO activity – even if only to a small extent. Enough it seems to worry the head of the Russian Defence Ministry who one would have thought would have other things to worry about at the moment. But Kremlin observers say that Shoigu’s outburst is a jittery reaction of a paranoic Kremlin that is obsessed by criticism at home or abroad, and sees everything as one big conspiracy. Reaction in Central Asia has been mixed but in Kazakhstan, where President Tokayev has set out a course for systematic reforms in the country, and where the government is looking at civil society as partners in this process, the reaction to Shoigu’s speech was negative, and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Roman Vasilenko, spoke out in defence of the NGOs in Kazakhstan. “As you know, support for the civil sector and support for NGOs are a top priority for the president, for the government and for the Ministry of Culture and Information, which is responsible for this area”, Vassilenko said on 29 February.
Editor's choice
News
5th European Union-Central Asia meeting on Afghanistan held in Bishkek

5th European Union-Central Asia meeting on Afghanistan held in Bishkek

The fifth European Union-Central Asia meeting focusing on Afghanistan took place in Bishkek on 14 February. Discussions centred around the situation in Afghanistan, with particular emphasis placed on finding effective ways to interact with the country’s de facto government. Participants praised the recent United Nations (UN) report on Afghanistan and endorsed UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s initiative to establish the position of UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan. Roza Otunbayeva, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, also attended the meeting.  The European Union was represented by the EU Special Representative for Central Asia, Terhi Hakkala.

Filter archive

Publication date
Editor's choice
News
Kazakhstan to host EU-Central Asia Economic Forum on 18-19 May

Kazakhstan to host EU-Central Asia Economic Forum on 18-19 May

The Kazakh capital of Almaty will be hosting the 2nd European Union-Central Asia Economic Forum next week on 18-19 May. Building on the 1st EU-Central Asia Economic Forum that took place in Bishkek in 2021, next week's forum will "take stock of progress made so far and discuss ways forward on policy, programmes, and investment needed to develop a more integrated and interconnected regional market engagement". "The Forum will allow to strengthen sustainable connectivity and promote regulatory approximation in the economic area between the EU and Central Asia countries, which is so vital for a better business environment and a safe investment climate," a statement from the EU Central Asia Invest Programme says. "The Forum will gather high-level government officials, the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, other bilateral and international financial institutions, representatives of the private sector and members of civil society. It is organised in partnership with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development," the statement adds. The forum will focus on three priority areas: a green and digital transition, a better business environment, and trade and connectivity. Next week's forum follows the 4th EU-Central Asia civil society forum that took place in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent in March.
Editor's choice
Editorial
Editorial: Chinese strategy in Central Asia aims to keep the west out, the Russians down, and everyone else on the margin

Editorial: Chinese strategy in Central Asia aims to keep the west out, the Russians down, and everyone else on the margin

Events of the past year have unleashed a new "Great Game" in Central Asia, writes commonspace.eu in this editorial. "The plan, it seems, builds on China’s “Belt and Road” programme, but there also now appears to be a much stronger political angle to China’s engagement. China is worried that Russia’s increasing weakness is creating a vacuum in Central Asia that others may be tempted to fill. It is determined to get there first. China’s approach seems to be to keep the west out, the Russians down, and everyone else on the margin." There is little doubt that the big loser in this “great game in the new era” is Russia. But the Kremlin at this point has little choice but to try to cut its losses. It desperately needs China’s support - at least economically, politically and diplomatically, if not militarily - as it tries to sort out the mess it created for itself in Ukraine, and resist Western sanctions imposed after its invasion.